Holiday dinners are an excellent opportunity to connect with your dearest family and friends, sharing and creating memories around the table. Unfortunately, they also correspond to increased food waste nationwide.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, people in the U.S. waste approximately 25% more food than they normally would, with millions of tons of food ending up in landfills. Creating meals consumes plentiful resources such as land, water, and energy; the process also involves materials for packaging and fuels for shipping. Additionally, plastic waste is generated from decorations and disposable tableware.
For the second installment of Green Living‘s “Sustainable Holiday Series,” we’re reviewing some simple guidelines to follow so that you can enjoy the season and be sure to only use what you need.
To host a delightful and unforgettable (COVID-friendly) dinner, you’ll need elements like food, tableware, and decorations. But if you feel comfortable, you might even consider asking your guests to bring their own utensils or share decor. I mean, who doesn’t love a potluck?
Next, be sure to plan the menu ahead of time so that everyone has food that they like, without much anticipated excess. Buy locally grown foods if possible, as this saves on fuel and packaging while also supporting your local community. And you might even consider exploring alternatives such as vegetarian/vegan options.
Store any leftovers in reusable containers, and let guests take leftovers home as needed. If you get bored of repetition, you can introduce some party fun with creative recipes. For instance, you can whip up turkey enchiladas or repurpose the carcass of the turkey as a base for soups. If you purchased food in packaging such as plastic or cardboard, look up guidelines in your town and be sure to recycle as much as possible!
Avoid disposable plates, cups, and silverware—opt for reusable tableware instead. Sure, that’s a lot of dishes to wash, but this action saves some paper and plastic from entering landfills and oceans. You can also collect water when you wash the dishes in the sink, and reuse it to flush the toilet or water your garden.
You don’t need to go out of your way to buy decorations (unless you really want to)! You can get creative with ordinary household items, or implement natural, edible pieces. Here are some fun ideas using common items that you likely already have. You can also arrange pine cones and branches, acorns, gourds, and other plants, fruits or berries—use your imagination! They will exude a wholesome, earthy feel, and you can compost or eat them after the party. For example, hang an eye-catching garland made with citrus, cranberries, and/or popcorn.
While you’re preparing for the big event, don’t forget the essential meaning of the holiday season: peace, joy, and family. If you don’t have the perfect setup and decorations, just do your best. Don’t let the stress prevent you from having quality time with your loved ones!